After a body was discovered in rural Barton County last year, Sheriff Greg Armstrong’s staff had a large area to search for evidence and needed to do it quickly. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation was there to help, and so were students from Barton Community College’s Criminal Justice program.
"(The students) came out and located some very good evidence for us," Armstrong said. Thanks to training received at the college, they knew what to look for, what to do, and what not to do at a crime scene.
The sheriff and other area law enforcement officials had words of praise when they spoke to Barton Community College trustees last week about the college’s Criminal Justice program.
Barton Criminal Justice students also help the Barton County Sheriff’s Office with training, playing the part of suspects in various scenarios. "It’s been a great benefit to my department, and to the people of Barton County," Armstrong said of the program.
Armstrong and Pawnee County Sheriff Scott King told trustees they’ve hired several of the students enrolled in the program coordinated by Randy Smith, a former Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent who now teaches at the college. Special Agent Bruce Mellor from the Great Bend office of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and Kent Schmidt, coordinator of training for the Kansas Department of Corrections at the Larned Mental Correctional Health Facility, also praised the program.
The college trustees regularly schedule "linkage" meetings with area groups, including educators, legislators and workforce advisory groups. Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said the meeting last Thursday with law enforcement was timely, given recent discussions with the Kansas Board of Regents. "We seem to have some disagreement about how training benefits our area," he said. (See related story.) "My position is, skills are developed (here)."
King and Mellor recalled that Garden City Community College had a stronger Criminal Justice program than BCC, back in the 1980s.
"I graduated from Barton County Community College," King said, but most of the program consisted of "listening to war stories" and learning to fill out paperwork. "Randy (Smith) has caught this program up," King continued. "I’m impressed with what Randy is doing."
A recent example is the Criminal Justice students’ participation in the annual Field Operations day, a day of hands-on education with simulated situations. Emergency Medical Technician and nursing students also take part in "Field Ops Day," along with numerous volunteer criminals and victims.
Mellor, who previously served on the advisory board for Garden City’s program, was also impressed with Field Ops Day. "The hands-on really helps," he said. "Randy has improved this program."
Smith said the relationship with area law enforcement is beneficial to the students as well. They find employment or internships, and can talk to officers about all aspects of the work. "If it wasn’t for law enforcement, I wouldn’t have what I have."